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Giannitrapani KF, Rodriguez H, Huynh AK, Hamilton AB, Kim L, Stockdale SE, Needleman J, Yano EM, Rubenstein LV. How middle managers facilitate interdisciplinary primary care team functioning. Healthcare (Amsterdam, Netherlands). 2019 Jun 1; 7(2):10-15.
BACKGROUND: The Veterans Health Administration (VA) primary care is organized as a Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) that is based on continuity management of patient panels by interdisciplinary "teamlets" consisting of primary care providers, nurses, and clerical associates. While the teamlets are envisioned as interdisciplinary in this model, teamlet members may continue to report separately to middle management supervisors within their respective disciplines. Little is known about the role of middle managers in medical home implementation; therefore, the study purpose is to examine and characterize teamlet members' perceptions of middle managers' role in primary care operations and teamlet functioning in an outpatient setting. METHODS: This study applied a formal qualitative data collection method and analysis based on semi-structured interviews of 79 frontline interdisciplinary staff (primary care providers, nurses, and clerical associates) in VA Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACT) teamlets. Interviews were analyzed using a method of constant comparison. RESULTS: Teamlet members recognize that their supervising middle managers are essential to daily functioning of PACT teamlets in terms of clarifying roles and responsibilities, setting expectations, providing coverage strategies, supporting conflict resolution, and facilitating teamlet-initiated innovation. Teamlet members identified challenges when middle manager involvement was lacking. CONCLUSION: Within a multilevel system, frontline interdisciplinary staff continue to perceive the need for leadership by middle managers from their own professional disciplines for solving interdisciplinary problems, setting role-specific schedules and expectations, and fostering innovation. As such, greater focus on the structure and training of middle managers for participation in PCMH models is needed.